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Email Sender Statistics Demystified

If you’ve spent any time among marketing automation, especially emails, you’ll probably notice email sender statistics. And you’ll probably notice a lot of ambiguity for how you can change your sender statistics.

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The Basics

An email campaign report is made up of two primary components: email delivery statistics and engagement statistics. Both of these combine to create your overall email sender statistic.

 

Email delivery statistics are made up of hard bounces, soft bounces, marked as spam, and repressions.

A hard bounce is a failure to deliver. These will lower your sender status if you have too many. Try to keep these under 2%.

A soft bounce is a temporary failure to deliver. Two of these will not lower your sender status, but they become a hard bounce on the third failure, which will lower your sender status. Soft bounces are a warning the email might be invalid.

Marked as spam were emails delivered, but were flagged by the email provider as spam and placed in the junk folder.

A repression is an email that has been suppressed by the tool you’re using. Some software, such as SharpSpring, will automatically suppress emails that are “high risk”— those that have been bought and sold on lists heavily and are often blacklisted by spam watchdogs.

 

Engagement statistics are made up of deliveries, opens, and possibly internal clicks.

Deliveries are emails that were successfully delivered to the address.

Opens are emails that were opened by the client.

Internal clicks are when the person clicked on a link within the email.

You need low hard bounces, high engagement, and high volume in order to improve your sender status. Until you have sent multiple thousands of emails, you will be considered a low-quality sender for the safety of already-established high quality senders

 

Best Practices

You want to make sure your lists are clean before sending anything to them. Sites such as BriteVerify allow you to get detailed reports of how many emails will hard bounce or be repressed because the emails are associated with spam, and return you a clean list.

If the list has low percentages of bad emails, it’s safe to use.

When it comes to soft bounces, keeping an eye on emails that have soft bounced is critical. You can either manually check who has two bounces, or you can rely on an automatically-built list that remove emails from your lists after two soft bounces.

You also want to be making sure your subject lines are attention-grabbing and enticing to keep engagement up. Testing different subject line lengths, offers, keywords, and “sent from” addresses Having people open your emails helps establish you as a high quality sender.

Also segmenting your lists to those who primarily engage with your emails to send the majority of your communication to them, only doing infrequent mass mailings, helps keep your engagement statistics high.

All of this must be done over an extended period of time, with a large volume of emails. The amount of emails it takes to be considered a good sender fluctuates, but is multiple thousands of emails. Building up a reputation with a solid, reputable email provider is necessary to work your way up to proving yourself a good sender.

Own Your Content

When you think of “content creation”, you probably think of a buzzword that vaguely means blog posts, maybe social media, but generally involving hours and hours of writing for somebody “over there” because content creation is a marketing task that can be cut when budget needs to go elsewhere.

What if I told you that you already have content created, live, and waiting for ownership— even if you’ve never had a blog?

Every piece of information you have on the internet, from your location to your contact information to your company description, is content. Each word you have put on your website or social media profile is an opportunity to build rapport and brand yourself.

 

Everything is Content

The internet relies on content to exist. Web design is to facilitate users reading content. Searches are to find content. If you have information on the internet, you have content.

 

Does Anybody Own It?

This is a question to ask yourself seriously before you begin evaluating your content. While it can be tempting to dodge this question so as not to take responsibility for bad content, answering it— at least for future endeavours— is necessary to improve your online presence.

Responsible for content doesn’t necessarily mean you write it. What it does mean is you create a standard for all future content, keep tabs on what content you have, and prune any unnecessary or outdated content.

 

Managing It

Once you’ve taken or assigned responsibility for your web content, it’s important to keep checking up on both the state of your content, and any rules that are being passed about web content.

This means:

  • Regular content audits to see what you have online
  • Pruning irrelevant content once it becomes irrelevant
  • Reading up on legal requirements such as AODA
  • Making sure all new content meets those requirements

While this looks overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be all done at once (or even all the time). You can schedule content audits based on how often you refresh your content— a slowly changing site can have yearly reviews, with yearly pruning. Faster changing sites might need every six months, or quarterly. Unless you’re constantly adding new things to the website, it’s unlikely you’ll need more than that

Legal requirements for content aren’t published too often, and by updating your content creation processes you can ensure all future content is compliant. Not to mention, having regular content audits means you always know what you have, and don’t have to make content you don’t need anymore up to regulations.

 

Benefits

By owning your content, you can start to evaluate every aspect of your online presence for its effectiveness, and start to think of why people visit your site. Is your content something people want to look for? Does it answer their questions? Does it help them trust you?

Looking over your content means you start to be aware of where you stand. Once you know where you stand, it’s far easier to take next steps and improve.

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Hyperlinking for AODA and SEO

Hyperlinks have become ubiquitous online, for good reason. Smooth, streamlined text that gets rid of a messy looking url is the hallmark of websites. A simple “click here” or “download” can string users along your site without breaking up the paragraph flow, and can even be inserted within sentences for an unobtrusive experience.

Except when hyperlinks can bring you farther away from AODA compliance, and worsen your SEO.

wooden puppet facing unknown endings from non-descriptive links

Bad Links

A bad link is, simply, a link that doesn’t provide context within the hyperlink text. While it’s very tempting to use these, since they’re the least obtrusive, they aren’t AODA compliant.

Examples of bad links include:

  • “Click here”
  • “More info”
  • “Continue reading”

While they look fine in context of a paragraph, links are often not read within the context of their paragraphs. As a result, people who use screen readers will come across link text that gives them no information for what they are about to click, rendering your website frustrating to navigate at best.

Google also doesn’t like blank links without a description, and while it will follow the link to rank your content, it won’t give any extra points for making the link difficult to understand when taken alone.

 

Good Links

Thankfully, it’s rather simple to turn a bad link into a good link. It’s simply a case of adding context to the link itself.

Examples:

  • “Click here to…”
  • “More info on…”
  • “Continue reading about…”

By filling in the blank about what you’d previously discussed in your content, you make the link stand on its own. This means anybody or anything that comes across the link will know exactly what it leads to.

This makes your site easier to navigate, and you can get a few more points in search in the process. While it can be tedious to go through and check every hyperlink to make sure it can stand on its own, the peace of mind knowing all links are compliant is worthwhile.

Image credit: a-poselenov

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How to Write Alt Text

Alt text, short for “alternative text”, is text in the metadata of images that shows up either when the image doesn’t load, or for screen readers. If you’ve ever had an email full of images have the space replaced with, say, a coupon value, you’ve seen alt text.

While it appears simple, alt text requires time and effort to get the hang of.

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Why should you put in alt text?

In short, it makes the graphic content of your website readable. This is useful for:

  • SEO
  • People with slower/limited internet connections
  • Individuals who use screen readers

If you’re in Ontario, you might be facing down the legal requirements of AODA, which requires all graphic information to be accessible in text. This is in accordance to WCAG, the international standard for web accessibility that is becoming the norm worldwide. While this is a laborious task, it reaps many rewards outside of disability circles.

By utilizing alt text to the maximum capacity, you can reap a rich keyword benefit that won’t visibly clog up the page (but don’t overdo it, as Google will still penalize you for keyword stuffing), and make your site available to a larger demographic.

Implementing alt text on a WordPress site is as easy as installing Yoast (for SEO) and allocating the hours to writing the material.

How to put in alt text

Simple images: describe the image in the “alternate text” window provided when you go to edit an image on your website. Sometimes, you need to go into the image’s properties to find this window. If the image has a caption associated with it, make sure the caption and image are vaguely related— the image might not be read with the caption!

Complex information: Diagrams that show a company’s organization, pie charts, and other images that present information graphically must also have alt text provided. It can be tricky to know how to tackle these, because usually you do graphics to make complex information more easily digestible.

For things like pie charts or flow charts that don’t show many steps, you can still describe the image in the alt text window. Just be extremely clear what information leads to others. For pie charts, descriptions should include what it’s for and the percentages per allocated slice. An example is:

Pie chart for [diagramed information] displaying: 49% of funds went to rent, utilities, maintenance; 32% to programs; 16% to staffing; 3% other.

Flow charts can be done much the same way:

Chart shows [item] at head, displaying four branches labeled 1, 2, 3, 4. Down the 1 branch, we have items A, B, and C. Down the 2 branch, we have L, M, N.

For larger pieces such as infographics, consider having a transcript of the whole chart that is available at a well-described link, such as “Click here for transcript of infographic.” (making sure your links are descriptive out of context is also required for WTAG compliance!)

Regardless of how you write the descriptions, making sure to include key terms you want to rank for (when appropriate) will boost your overall SEO. It is a heavy time investment, but the rewards are numerous— including people knowing your company is thinking about multiple types of web users.

Image credit: oatawa

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Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Ontario is in the midst of rolling out AODA, a set of guidelines to make Ontario more accessible for people with disabilities. Websites will soon be judged on whether or not they adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, AA compliance (except for live audio and video). The timeline for when compliance is required can be found on Ontario’s AODA page.

Reaching WCAG guidelines helps open up your website to a wider variety of potential prospects, and earns goodwill among clients. Many principles of content accessibility are good SEO, smart design, or both. Even if compliance isn’t mandatory (which it is for all public companies and all private companies over 50 employees), WCAG are often simply good design.

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Where to Start

Low or no vision accommodations make up a large percentage of WCAG guidelines; this includes making sure all links are comprehensible out of context, there are proper code markers in place for screen readers to know there is text to read, and all information available in graphics is also available within text.

This is one of the most comprehensive places to start, and one that shows the most immediate benefit. Making graphic information available in text also helps your SEO by giving either alt text (for simple images) or search engines a better idea of what is displayed on your webpage (which helps determine its relevancy).

 

Keep Cleaning Up

If you have audio or video content pre-recorded on your site, transcripts and descriptions need to be available for those. Building a site map is also advised, for how it helps people navigate and find the page they’re looking for more quickly. If people have to make choices on your site, make sure colour is not the only differentiating factor.

Any PDFs you have available on your site should also be checked. If you have Adobe Acrobat Pro, you can use tools within the suite to determine if they’re accessible. Make sure all buttons have a programmed purpose, so a screen reader can say what button to press.

 

Continue to Maintain

Reaching WCAG guidelines is both an initial investment and a continuing one. If you refresh content on the site frequently, then any and all new content must also be compliant. This includes new graphics, PDFs, pages, and audio/video. Determine how often you should review your content based on the frequency you update the website, and allocate time to run a small scale audit for accessibility.

Content Creation for Link Building

I’ve spoken about blogging for qualified SEO before, and blogging is an important part of increasing the traffic to your site. However, simply generating the content isn’t enough to be ranking in search. On top of the creation, you have to integrate the content into your website. A simple way to do this is link building.

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credit: gl0ck / gettyimages

Benefits of Link Building

Link building basically means linking your content internally among your own pages. While it’s important not to go overboard— Google will penalize you for putting in too many links, as it realizes you’re trying to trick its algorithm— placing links in relevant portions of your website helps their ranking and drives leads deeper into your website, reading more of your material and, as a result, qualifying themselves.

When you combine link building with a visitor tracking system such as SharpSpring, you gain valuable insight to your website traffic almost impossible to gain without link building.

 

Content Creation Strategy

Link building needs to be a part of your overall sales strategy. Since the primary purpose of producing content is to drive sales, it’s important you work link building into all your online content. This covers your blog posts, along with social media and even the text on your website.

A good link building strategy will holistically address how links fit in everywhere your website, outside of pushing links to social media and inter-linking blog posts. It sets up content management as part of your overall marketing efforts, which, in turn, helps keep you constantly up to date.

 

Maintenance

Now here comes the tricky part— finding time. While the initial effort to do a strategy might be a daunting effort, the resulting maintenance doesn’t have to be. It’s more a case of being aware that it will continue to be part of your link building process.

As you generate content, establish how and when links will be shared, and develop a system where you regularly review what content you want to promote within your website. Depending on how quickly you generate content, you could be looking at reviews every month or every six. Whatever you decide, make sure you use the time to take an inventory of what you’ve produced, how it supports your sales, and adjusting as necessary.

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Blogging for Qualified SEO

SEO is important for any business, but determining how to best improve it can be a tricky task. One easy way to improve your website, short of an SEO audit and a website revamp, is to regularly blog. Regular blogging gives prospects a reason to return to your website, and can improve your ranking— so long as you purposefully plan your content. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your blogging.

man typing on keyboard with ideas floating around his head
credit: Federico Caputo / getty images

1. Set a goal and a strategy

Start with your end goal in mind. In a sentence or two (or less!) you should be able to explain exactly what your blogging strategy is supposed to accomplish. How is this content helping reach your business objectives? Talk with your team and do what you can together to ensure the goal is as clear as possible. No piece of content should be random or lacking purpose, even if it’s a short blog. Really examine your sales process to determine how you can use blogging to support it, and how you want to drive people through your funnel.

 

2. Make sure the pieces support the goal

Higher ranking SEO might get more people to your website, but that isn’t as important as getting the right people to your website. If you’re blogging just for the sake of it, without putting your sales goal to the forefront, your SEO efforts won’t provide as much return as they could. Have benchmarks and review points in place to adjust your blogging strategy, and make sure to review every piece so it does the best job it can.

 

3. Use inbound marketing techniques to further your sales

Once you’ve written the content that gets more qualified buyers to your site, you have to continue nurturing them along your sales funnel. If you’ve properly set up goals, you should know where to drive your leads for the next stage of the buying process. Setting up CTAs is the easiest way to do this, but depending on your overreaching content strategy, you could use individual blog posts in a multitude of ways.

 

4. Continue improving the rest of your online presence

Blogging is only one part of a content strategy, which, ideally, covers everything you produce— from website pages to social media posts. While blogging can generate an improvement, you need to make sure all of your content strategy is optimized to drive qualified leads to your sales team. You can do this yourself or hire an external agency, freeing up your resources to work on further nurturing those sales instead of trying to keep up to the constantly-moving target that is SEO.

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Sharpspring and CASL Compliance

Building a Prospect List With CASL

Marketing automation is a useful tool in any business, but it becomes more important with Canada’s Anti-Spam Laws (CASL). In order to be CASL compliant, companies must provide evidence of compliance in the form of opt-ins and records of transactions in order to establish the communication to their prospects is consensual. This can be difficult to manage, require constant updating, and can drain resources away from other facets of your business. It can also make your website less effective, because you’re not holistically tracking your customer base.

However, with tools like SharpSpring, you can determine worthwhile leads, use forms to opt-in, track lead behaviour, and use lists to qualify leads. SharpSpring also automates the tracking of who has opted in and not, and has options to track purchases.

Letter with barbed wire.
credit: s576/ getty images

Forms

Forms are, by far, the strongest SharpSpring tool for CASL compliance. By including an opt-in on all gated content, you increase your odds of receiving permission to send email communication.

All opt-ins can then be stored in a separate list (more on lists later), meaning you never have to worry about sending communication to somebody who has not opted in.

Using forms also allows you to capture emails and get a barometer for who is seeking out your content, giving you better audience data and allowing you to improve your future campaigns.

 

Track Lead Behaviour

If somebody doesn’t check the opt-in box, that doesn’t mean the contact is useless. You can proceed to track how much they use your site, what pages they visit, and see if they’re worth manually calling (something not covered under CASL), or transferring them to an “opt-in” list after they’ve made a purchase from you (at which point, there is implied consent).

SharpSpring allows you to both set a lead score based on behaviour, and has an option to trigger workflows that notify your salespeople when a lead has done actions that your company has deemed important. Both of these features allow you to use methods other than email campaigns to further your sales efforts, making CASL less of a concern.

 

Lists

Arguably one of SharpSpring’s more powerful features, lists allow you to segment all contacts by criteria you determine. Not only can you separate those who have opted in versus those who haven’t, but you can create rules-based lists that adapt according to lead score or user behaviour.

The previous two features (forms and tracking lead behaviour) are critical in helping you build lists. While the most obvious uses for lists is creating email campaigns, lists can also be used to qualify prospects. By assigning lead score points based on pages visited, number of return visits to the site, and number of forms filled in, a sales team can establish which leads are qualified and ready to make a purchase. Instead of following up with every lead, salespeople can limit themselves to following up on leads who are more likely to produce a return on the investment of selling to them.

 

Overall

Automated marketing is a vital tool to maintain CASL compliance. In order to best cover your legal bases, it makes sense to purchase a tool such as SharpSpring and work with a partner to best establish how you can advance your business without relying on random email marketing.

 

Alphabet Soup: SEO and AODA

The web can often feel like a sea of acronyms, and this is no different. SEO might be slightly familiar as Search Engine Optimization — making your websites more visible when people search for key terms— but AODA is a new kid on the block for Ontarians. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act sets to make companies think about disabled individuals and how to expand their accommodations to suit various needs, including how easily understood websites are.

All web content must be accessible by January 1, 2021, and private companies with over 50 employees must have all their content accessible already. Outside of legal reasons, accessible websites are good practice in general. The disabled population is a viable and untapped market, and an accessible website can be the difference between reaching that market and not.

Complying with AODA doesn’t just help you reach new markets — it helps your SEO, as well. In fact, screen readers and Google use pretty similar processes for navigating websites. Google’s commitment to accessibility means they favour sites that go the extra mile.

Here are three ways to use SEO to reach AODA compliance:

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1- Site Maps

Creating a site map means screen readers know how to reach the page their users want to reach the most quickly, and are an SEO goldmine. By having a site map, you give everyone an easily read path to where they want to go, and people become less frustrated navigating.

While it can be heavily involved to make a site map, the payoffs are huge both on the accessibility and the SEO front. If this is on your ‘later’ list, consider pushing it up.

2- Alternate Image Text

Images are everywhere on the web, from buttons to coupons. While they provide engaging visual interest, they are completely unreadable to both search engines and screen readers. If you neglect to add alternate text, then search engines have less content to use in evaluating your site, and individuals could miss out.

Again, this is another heavily involved task, which means prioritizing is key. You don’t need to provide alternate text for all your images, but focusing on submit buttons, coupons, and images that click through to other pages or downloads will get you the most bang for your accessibility and SEO buck.

3- Descriptive Headings and Custom Page Titles

Search engines love custom page titles, because it proves relevancy for the content in the header. Screen reader users love them for the same reason — they know what they are clicking on as it is being read to them. This lowers frustration and allows people to use your site more easily.

Takeaway

Complying with AODA benefits everyone. By following three simple steps, you boost your SEO, and help make it everyone can enjoy using the internet. If you’re using WordPress for your site, you can follow tips outlined in this article to do even more for people with disabilities.

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Twitter’s Changing. Are You?

Twitter recently announced changes to its icon and banner sizing. On top of changing the dimensions of the images themselves, they have made their visible area 1260 x 330 pixels, not counting what your profile picture covers.

As a result, you will likely have to resize your images and maybe even redesign them. While you’re at it, what better time to do a brand audit and evaluate your visual presence across social media?

PROSAR has created an infographic to help ensure your new and improved designs meet specifications. Do keep in mind the visible area could be smaller than actual dimensions and keep important branding to the centre of the images. Here are some tips for conducting your brand audit:

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1- Look at All Your Properties

This will help you determine what the best visual language for your brand is. While most social properties follow the general principle of “square profile image, wide but short banner”, some properties have much smaller profile images (such as Instagram, not to mention the size of icons within the feed itself) while others are rectangular. You want to create a design that can seamlessly integrate across channels you’re actively using.

This is also a good time to evaluate the usefulness of each social channel and either revitalize or cut any that have lapsed.

2- Ask Where You Want to Go

Your brand should reflect your audience, current position, and future aspirations. It could be you’ve had to grow your company slowly as you start out, or your direction has changed. As you evolve, your brand should evolve with you.

Ill-fitting imagery to your current situation will make your social media properties hard to recognize and inspire less confidence. Refreshing your brand regularly to reflect your current market position helps you stay current and relatable.

3- Look at Trends

While it’s never advised to follow every trend to the letter, looking at what other brands are doing can give you an idea of what to take advantage of and what’s here to stay. It can also give you a point to stand out by going against the grain.

You don’t want to be formulaic, but you do want to be current. Even the most timeless brands need updates every once in awhile.

Overall

Social media changes are a perfect opportunity to refresh your brand. Take the little extra time to create an engaging, fresh approach to continue engaging with your target audience.